REVIEW: The Huawei P20 Pro, the best smartphone camera of the year 1 year ago

REVIEW: The Huawei P20 Pro, the best smartphone camera of the year

We've put the Huawei P20 Pro through its paces...

Huawei was in the news recently, and for good reason. The brand has passed out Apple on the leaderboard and is now the second largest smartphone seller in the world.

Samsung still holds the number one spot with no sign of relinquishing it anytime soon.

But this isn't about Samsung. This is about the Huawei P20 Pro, the much-hyped smartphone launched with an ambitious three lens camera.

We'll start by outlining what comes in the box.

  • Huawei P20 Pro smartphone
  • High current charger for super fast charging
  • USB Type-CTM digital headset
  • Warranty card and quick start guide
  • A protective case
  • USB Type-CTM to 3.5mm headphone adapter and headphones
  • SIM Ejector tool

If you're coming for the King, you better not miss. In this scenario, there's a number of Kings in the smartphone world, from the iPhone X to the Samsung Galaxy S9 (although it's very similar to last year's phone) and the less popular but no less impressive OnePlus 6 (there's a review of that coming up soon, watch this space).

Having established its name in mid-range smartphones, Huawei has recently made moves to branch into the premium market with the the Mate 10 Pro and last year’s P10. They were of high quality, and had all the features you’d expect from an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S. But until now, there always felt like there was something missing.

However, Huawei have come very close to one of the best phones of the year with the P20 Pro. That's not something we say lightly.

Design

It's the year of the notch as Huawei continue the trend of smartphones adopting it in 2018. But while the notch will annoy some users, the 6.1-inch OLED screen runs at a 18.7:9 aspect ratio. If this is an impasse for you, there's an option to hide the notch and you'll still be left with a standard 18:9 screen which means you'll miss nothing.

Huawei has managed to create one of the most striking finishes available on any current flagship. There are four finishes available; Twilight (pictured below), Pink Gold, Midnight Blue and Black.

Huawei P20 Pro

One of my pet peeves, the P20 Pro does not come with a headphone jack, instead you're given a pair of USB Type-CTM headphones and an adaptor for regular headphones. This probably isn't a big deal for many people as headphone jacks are increasingly being abandoned in newer smartphones, but just something to note if you're a traditionalist.

The P20 Pro has a larger battery than its peers, at 4,000mAh, but you wouldn't know from its design. At just 7.8mm thick, the phone is actually more slimline and lighter than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. Better yet, the battery lasts almost two days.

But my God, the mirror glass back attracts fingerprints like a demon.

Features

The Huawei P20 Pro runs Android 8.1 with the Huawei EMUI 8.1 interface on top.

On first use, Huawei P20 Pro does not have an apps menu. It uses an iOS-like arrangement where all your apps end up on the home screens, with the idea for you to organise the apps into folders. Although this is the default setting, it's possible to revert to a standard Android layout in the settings menu.

The performance of the phone overall is good, and the 6GB of RAM is enough to ensure no lag. I used it extensively for two months and didn't notice any dip in speed or sharpness.

The P20 Pro delivers superb performance, switching between applications and launching sub-menus with zero fuss.

I used the phone while travelling in Indonesia, so you can imagine, connecting to WI-FI where possible was an important part of the daily routine. I did have some minor issues connecting to wireless networks that some of my friends using iOS had no problems with. More often than not, it worked, but there were some frustrating moments. Something I imagine will be addressed during upcoming software updates.

Overall the P20 Pro is up there with some of the best on the market when it comes to benchmark performance.

Camera

This is where the P20 Pro really comes into its own. It is, hands down, the best smartphone camera I have ever used.

Below is a side by side photo, one taken on the P20 Pro (left), the other with an iPhone 7 (right). While the iPhone 7 is a few phones removed from Apple's top of the range iPhone X, it will give you an idea of what you're dealing with in terms of the camera capacity of the P20 Pro.

It's fantastic, there's no other word for it.

The Huawei P20 Pro is the first smartphone to offer a triple camera setup, consisting of:

  • A powerful 40-megapixel primary ‘Light Fusion’ RGB sensor (with an f/1.8 aperture)*
  • A 20-megapixel monochrome sensor (with an f/1.6 aperture)
  • An 8-megapixel telephoto sensor (with an f/2.4 aperture)

The trio work together to supercharge the camera module’s photographic capabilities.

The front-facing camera is a whopping 24MP unit (with an f/2.0. aperture), but this one doesn't have autofocus.

*F-stop value represents the amount of light that goes into the lens. The smaller the f-stop value, the more light will enter the lens. For example, an aperture of f1.8 will allow a lot more light than an aperture of f2.2, which causes better, brighter photography in low light conditions - night photos etc.

Huawei P20 Pro

The camera has a Master AI to recognise scenes and it's enabled automatically in the settings.

According to Huawei, it should be able to identify over 500 different scenes and adjust photo parameters accordingly. However, the AI can be a little too gung-ho at times, which can take a little getting used to, but there's no doubting it provides some spectacular images.

Plus there's the option to adjust these settings manually.

If you're inclined to send pictures of your food, this is the phone for you...

Huawei P20 Pro

Overall

The Huawei P20 Pro is a very good smartphone that will likely impress both amateur and seasoned photographers.

An eye-catching design, along with some top-end specifications and extremely fast-charging, Huawei ticks a lot of boxes with its latest endeavour.

But make no mistake about it, it's the camera that sets this phone apart. The 40MP camera looks great on ads, but the results of the tri-camera set up cannot be ignored, especially when zoom is activated.

The lack of a headphone jack physically pains me but it's looking like most smartphones will be like this going forward, so I'm willing to let it slide. The current fad is for phones with notches and the P20 Pro has embraced that, but there's an option to hide the notch, which I thoroughly approve of.

The P20 Pro costs around €749 and is available in phone stores around Ireland. It's a quality phone, well put together and anyone thinking of buying it won't be disappointed with their purchase.